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test drive

Recipe: pasta e fagioli

Can you believe that I’ve been prattling on for four years on Use Real Butter? Yup, it’s URB’s fourth blogiversary today. My perspective on food has changed so much in that time and I have to credit the food blogosphere for a lot of inspiration and education. URB didn’t start as a food blog, but eventually the food side of the blog kept the name and moved into the public arena… and here we are! So thanks to all of the readers and fellow bloggers who keep the whole enchilada lively and fun, but especially to those of you who stuck with me through my craptastic year of cancer treatment – thank you.

i cried a river of tears over those onions

The inaugural recipe for my new All Clad stock pot arrived in my post office box just last week in the form of a shiny January 2009 issue of Fine Cooking. It is officially soup weather here in my little mountain town. High winds, snow, and temperatures plummeting below freezing put me in the mood to make a big pot of hearty soup. It was also a great way to clear out my crisper drawer in the refrigerator as I always seem to have a few carrots and celery stalks lounging about. Kaweah loves when I make soups chock full of vegetables because she enjoys munching on the occasional carrot or cabbage leaf.

browning the italian sausage

There were a handful of beautiful soups to choose from, but I immediately settled on pasta e fagioli because I had been searching for a recipe lately. How timely. The Fine Cooking version called for bacon, and frying the onions in the bacon grease… sounded great, but I opted for some Italian sausage instead. After browning the sausage, I drained off the grease and sautéed the onions in vegetable oil.

garlic, rosemary, and cinnamon

adding spices to the sautéed onions

I found the cinnamon stick to be a curious addition to the soup. While I love soups and stews, I’m not so well versed in the myriad of spices and herbs that determine the personality of a dish. Perhaps that is something to work on this winter.

canned great northern beans and diced tomatoes

In addition to subbing sausage for the bacon, I also omitted the chick peas (garbanzo beans) in favor of cannelli beans. But while I was at the store, cannelli beans were nowhere to be found. I wheeled up and down the bean aisle and then the bulk foods aisle and back again, caught in an infinite loop unable to find my beans. Not wanting to waste any more of my life searching for something I was pretty sure they didn’t have, I settled on great northern beans as a substitute for my substitute.

adding the broth, beans, and vegetables

Macaroni would have been an easy pasta to use, but I really like the short tubular pastas. Why I get these specific shapes, textures, or flavors in my head for certain recipes, I don’t know… Call me particular. Whole Foods had crap for a selection. That miffed me. I suppose I (unreasonably) expect Whole Foods to carry every specialty item I seek because they charge me so damn much for *everything*. That may not make sense. I never claimed to make sense. I did find some Ditalini at Safeway, which was exactly what I wanted in my soup.

toss in the cooked sausage and pasta

After all of the prep, the assembly of the soup was quick. Thirty minutes on simmer and it was done. So the verdict on that cinnamon stick? I love it. It’s different from what I am used to and I think the spice brings out a warm and lively dimension to the pasta e fagioli that might otherwise taste ordinary, bland. This is a keeper recipe.

lovin’ spoonful

Pasta e Fagioli
[print recipe]
modified from Fine Cooking no. 96 (January 2009)

1 lb. Italian sausage, bulk
3 tbsps vegetable oil
3 red onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 quarts chicken broth
2 cans (15 oz. ea) great northern or cannelli beans, drained
2 cans (15 oz. ea) diced tomatoes, with juice
4 medium carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
1 cup ditalini pasta, cooked and drained
2 tsps red wine vinegar
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish

In a large stock pot, brown the Italian sausage until cooked. Remove from pot and drain. Heat the vegetable oil in the stock pot and sauté the onions until softened. Add the garlic and rosemary, cooking until fragrant. Add the broth, beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, cinnamon stick, and water. Bring to boil over high heat then reduce and let simmer for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Discard the cinnamon stick, then stir in the sausage, cooked pasta, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more vinegar. Serve hot with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish.

36 nibbles at “test drive”

  1. Kitt says:

    I’d like a large bowl of that, please. The shorter pasta looks very appealing. But I’ll keep the bacon!

    More snow’s on the way.

  2. Manggy says:

    Happy blogaversary/blog birthday! Here’s to many more years, yay! :)
    I’m not too well-versed in the whole spice thing either. It’s mainly from inexperience. Beyond black pepper there’s not too much in Filipino cuisine. I’m glad it worked out, though. Does the food processor do too good a job at chopping onions (i.e. pureeing them)/ cleanup is too messy for just a few onions? In any case, it was worth it– the soup looks so hearty and comforting. And it isn’t unreasonable to think that WF should carry a greater selection for the price :)
    For some reason, when I saw your rosemary pic, I smelled a little bit of rosemary. Creepee!

  3. Mrs Ergül says:

    I hope you’ll be writing on Use Real Butter for many many more years to come! I check out your blog on a daily basis and I will be lost if it is gone! So, happy 4th and many more blogiversary!

    a hearty soup signals the beginning of your favourite season!! i’m happy for you! oh, and I love the goodness in this soup!

  4. Kathy says:

    Jen, Happy blogaversary! The soup looks great. I am going to try the cinnamon sticks next time I make this soup.

  5. Rosa says:

    Happy Bloganniversary, Jen! Wow, that’s a long time! Keep up with the great work!

    That hearty soup looks fantastic!



  6. Lauren says:

    Happy blogaversary! Love the blog, and the soup :) I always thought of pasta e fagoli as a nostalgic dish, having no appeal to those who hadn’t grown up with it, but i was wrong! Must try the cinnamon stick :P

  7. Caitlin says:

    Happy 4th, URB! I love this time of year – perfect for having soup at as many meals as possible.

  8. Susy says:

    MMMM, it’s just getting cold here in Ohio, perfect soup weather.

  9. Fiona says:

    Hmmm…lovely. I used a masala on pork chops last night and had a similar initial reaction. Cinnamon? Nutmeg? On Pork? I thought it might end up tasting like dessert pig. But it was good, and the little bit of chili powder left a little tingle afterwards. So cinnamon turns out to be more versatile than I realized.

    Two questions:
    1. Why cook the pasta before putting it in?
    2. I need a new skillet. My Calphalon non-stick has disintegrated and is now disgusting. I never loved it. I’m planning to get a slightly larger skillet (12 inches instead of 10) and a non-non-stick (shiny silver goodness). Any reason why I need a higher end? I’ve been having pretty good luck with Revere Ware, and am tempted by their copper-bottom stuff. Any advice?

    Happy blogiversary. Please keep blogging.

  10. Mollie says:

    Happy Happy! Four years? That’s amazing…

    The soup looks great. I love soup. I could eat it every day… in fact, I practically do! And a great way to break in the new pot. Yummmmmmm

  11. Nicisme says:

    Happy Birthday to your blog – I have enjoyed reading it and hope there’s many more to come!

  12. jennywenny says:

    Mmm, soup, definitely the time to be warming up, its even a bit chilly here in San Diego.

    Happy blogiversary!

    Its good to know your craptastic year is nearly at an end and hopefully 2009 will hold lots of happy times and fun.

  13. Lezel Safi says:

    Happy Anniversary, Cheers to this next year kicking last year’s proverbial ars!! Lovin’ the soup and anxiously awaiting my first Fine Cooking that I subscribed to…your rave inspired me!

  14. Kathy says:

    Happy Anniversary! I love your blog!!

  15. Sunshine says:

    I have been so gladdened by the happy occasions and milestones you have had lately! I fell in love with the Impreza when I was a kid, the first time I ever played Gran Turismo. My Brother and his wife belong to a Subaru Impreza Club so we were admiring the sleek stylings of your latest addition!

    I also got a kick out of the kibble placement that Kaweah conducted to choose the subscriptions. Aren’t pets so much fun and companionship?!? I don’t know if you found this, but I find that especially when you have been sick and had to go through lots of medical *stuff*, it’s so nice to have a companion that makes you laugh 50 times a day and that you can talk to but isn’t demanding.

    Thanks for giving us another soup recipe. You rock my culinary world!

    I have a request for information, but please only if you want… I find all your processes so interesting and just so beautifully executed. It has led me to wonder how you store your spices. This is an issue that continues to messify my kitchen. I am just about to move and am still looking for a good way to store them. You have such neat ways of doing things that I just wondered if you had anything to share in this regard.

    If you don’t feel like sharing anything at this time no worries…I like whatever moves ya…thanks!

  16. linda says:

    Happy blog anniversary!

  17. mimi says:

    happy four years!!

  18. Lori says:

    Cheers to you Jen for your fourth year! May it keep on rolling. I am loving it. Great pictures and great food ideas. Plus I love to read what you have to say.

  19. Wandering Chopsticks says:

    Happy Blog Birthday!

    If you liked cinnamon in the soup, might I suggest trying to make Vietnamese pho next? :)

  20. Stacey Snacks says:

    Your pasta fagioli looks fantastic, and I hope it keeps you healthy and warm!
    I am going to make this during the week!
    Stay well! and congratulations on your blog anniversary.

  21. Anita says:

    Happy four years, Jen! I’m so glad you stuck around for so long. Whether it’s food or anything else, you’re a true gift to the blogosphere! Looking forward to many more of your fab posts!

  22. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy says:

    Happy Blogiversary, Jen! Four years is quite a milestone. I wish you many, many more! I am so blessed to have gotten to know you this past year. You’re an inspiration to me and I’m proud to call you my friend.

    That pasta e fagioli recipe is very interesting. It is very different from what I’m used to, but that’s the point, isn’t it? My grandma would turn over in her grave to see cinnamon in the dish, but I like it. I sometimes put cinnamon in my tomato sauce, especially a meat sauce, so I can see how it would work here. It looks delicious!

  23. peabody says:

    Congrats on four years! You have such a wonderful blog, hope you are around blogging for at least another 4 years and then some. Cheers my friend!

  24. zoe / puku says:

    happy blogiversary Jen, congrats on 4 years of tenacious and bodacious blogging lady! you certainly set the standard for powering through, sister. and the soup looks lovely.

  25. Margie says:

    When I quickly scanned this yesterday I failed to see the mention of your fourth anniversary. (I was salivating over the recipe and pondering my own weeks new menu). Today I take a breath and wish you continued success. You, my dear, are one of the reason I I look forward to my daily food fix via blogsphere!

    I had plans to make a minestrone this week, but quess where that plan went? Wayside. I’m going to make this soup and enjoy its new discovery into my recipe box. Again, muchas gracias!

  26. Amy says:

    Happy Blogiversary, Jen! Many more happy years to you and URB. :) I’m throwing myself headlong into soup season, too…this recipe looks fantastic. Going on my roster to make! PS – ditalini is my fave, too.

  27. luv2cook says:

    I linked to your page here . I always love to see your lovely photos. Thanks for the perfect soup for this week.

  28. Nate says:

    Happy Bloggerversary! We just celebrated our two-year anniversary ourselves. What will next two or four years bring?

  29. mimi says:

    i actually made this tonight and it was so good! i just posted about it. thanks for sharing the recipe!

  30. Melissa says:

    Congratulations on 4 years! Your page is so awesome and easy to want to come back to. I imagine you’ll have a devoted readership for as many years as you want to continue with it.

    This soup looks wonderful. I had pasta fagiole the first time about a year ago. A friend of mine made it and I thought it was okay, but nothing noteworthy. But maybe it was just that one because looking at this version of ingredients and method, I think I need to give it another day in court.

  31. Tony says:

    congratulations on the four years, Jen! I look forward to many more years of your sweet blog :)

  32. jenyu says:

    Kitt – I may try the bacon next time, but it seems that bacon pops up in every recipe of late and I don’t want to kill us off so quickly :)

    Mark – same here. The food processor sucks at chopping onions, which is why I prefer to do it myself by hand. Funny how some images trigger other sensation memories in our heads!

    Mrs E – awww, you’re very sweet, my dear. Soups are awesome!

    Kathy – thanks!

    Rosa – thanks so much, dear.

    Lauren – I love the stuff!

    Caitlin – yay!

    Susy – don’t you love it?

    Fiona – Dessert pig? That’s a winner! I cook the pasta first so that it doesn’t cloud up the soup and introduce lots of starch into the broth. Well, I like the all-clad and other higher end pans because they have aluminum or copper core. Those cores heat quickly and retain heat better for improved heat distribution on the pan. I don’t know too much about Revere Ware… but you may want to just try one all-clad piece to see how you like it. That’s how I got hooked :)

    Mollie – Four years. And now you’re along for the ride!

    Nicisme – aww, thank you so much :) You are such a sweetie!

    Jennywenny – Chilly in SD? It’s true… that fog, huh? Sometimes fog makes me feel colder than standing in 10 degree weather :) Thanks – let’s hope it’s a good 2009!

    Lezel – hee hee! I hope you love it as much as I do.

    Kathy – thank you :)

    Sunshine – Thanks! Yes, pets are really wonderful. Kaweah made me feel much better when I was feeling so bad. My spices are stored in a really haphazard way… But I’ll take a picture tomorrow and post it for you to see. I’m sure I’m breaking all sorts of rules about spice storage.

    Linda – thanks!!

    Mimi – thank you.

    Lori – you’re making my head blow up so much I won’t be able to fit through the doorway! :)

    WC – thanks hon! God, I love Vietnamese food… but I want a pro like you or Diane to show me how to do it RIGHT :)

    Stacey – thanks, I hope you like the recipe!

    Anita – YOU are such a dear. Thanks for your sweet words and thanks for inspiring me too!

    Susan – my wonderful friend! I’m just as proud to call you mine. I was wondering if cinnamon was authentic or someone’s bright idea at Fine Cooking? ;)

    Peabody – I’ll stick around if *you* promise to stick around :)

    Zoe – you’re such a riot :) Thanks for keeping me company!

    Margie – A blogiversary is just a mark in time… time still marches on. I hope you like the soup. I think soup is just one of those wonderful restorative meals. Makes me happy :)

    Amy – yay, headlong! That’s how I feel. I never used ditalini before, but I *love* it! You’ve got good taste in pasta, baby!

    Luv2cook – thank you.

    Nate – woohoo to you guys! I hope the next few years will bring many more great recipes and good blogging buddies!

    Mimi – way to go, girlfriend!

    Melissa – I think it’s one of those recipes that has a lot of variation and can be terrible to okay to awesome. I’m just glad to finally have found a recipe that I like! Thanks :)

    Tony – thanks hon, you are such a dear.

  33. Jeanette says:

    Well, I had made a mental note to try this recipe and when it started to snow yesterday, figured that would be a good time.

    It really is very very good. I made some homemade buttermilk biscuits on the side and that was it, a nice easy and satisfying meal.

    And congrats on 4 years of blogging.

  34. White On Rice Couple says:

    wow, 4 years Jen? Hugs! Congrats to you, your amazing blog, your amazing hubbie and our personal favorite, Kaweah!

    Heck, congrats to everyone! To all who are inspired by Jen Yu, let’s pass the bubbly! (Can’t you tell that we LOVE to drink?)

    a big bowl of that soup sounds so good right now. It’s been FREEZING (45 degrees) down here! :D

  35. emily says:

    Even though it was almost 90 degrees here in LA today, I was determined to make this fabulous soup!
    I made it before leaving for work and ate it for dinner with my boyfriend. First of all, the smell is just fantastic! I wanted to eat the whole pot full this morning! 2nd, the cinnamon stick is a wonderful addition! The soup is wonderful! Cant wait to eat it for lunch tomorrow! I should have brought it with me to work today!!
    Thanks for your awesome blog! I love it so much and look forward to seeing what you create everyday. :)

  36. jenyu says:

    Jeanette – I think the snow makes the soup taste even better :) Thanks!

    WoRC – I can’t wait to see you tanked out on booze, hon – you must be a riot! 45 is freezing? 45 makes me weep here – too warm for snow :(

    Emily – it really does smell awesome. I agree! So glad you enjoy the blog!

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